Pedophile Musical Causes Critical “Crapstorm” in Philly


Dear Nice People Theatre Company,

What Philadelphia Inquirer critic Wendy Rosenfield says you did isn’t very nice. I’m not going to suggest it isn’t good marketing — or shrewd, mercenary marketing. You’re mounting Megan Gogerty’s Love Jerry, a musical whose title character is a pedophile — a fellow for whom the audience’s empathy is, we presume, actively solicited. You have to do what you have to do.

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But you could do it with class. First I read Rosenfield’s review, then I read about the brouhaha you’ve apparently incited around it, then I read about the second brouhaha around the rejection of your ad for the show, then I learned about how you’ve turned it all into a cause celebre — going so far, Rosenfield says, as to demand that the Inquirer remove her review. Well, I’ve started to suspect you’re really in it for 15 minutes of “look at us, we’re so edgy!” fame, not cultural dialogue. I think that trying to silence a critic is very small. I am ashamed of you.

Thinking about the parameters of Love Jerry, one parallel that comes to mind is the story of Lionel Dahmer — father of Jeffrey. He wrote a book that was under-read that asks readers to do the near-impossible: reconcile the evil of Jeffrey Dahmer with the idea that a parent’s unconditional love really does mean that it’s unconditional. So it’s about morality, isn’t it? It’s about conundrums that test our mettle, isn’t it? Doesn’t an empathetic pedophile prick the bubble of safety we wish to associate with, and hopefully extend to, our children? So how do you expect a thinking critic to react? You have successfully tested Rosenfield’s mettle. Clearly she’s wrestling with your subject, with her value system, with her beliefs. What would you prefer? Oh, right — a rave.

Well, you can maintain that Rosenfield failed the test because she didn’t like the show. But the fact is, there was nothing unprofessional in her review. Indeed, she stated she had no quibble with the production. She just didn’t like the show. She’s a parent; she thinks empathy for pedophiles is offensive, like empathy for a serial killer. She reacted precisely, it seems to me, as any parent might react. Isn’t that the point? To affirm, but to challenge? To arrest, but to free?

For the love of Dionysus, please confirm or deny whether you tried to persuade the Inquirer to remove Rosenfield’s review or not. Deny it and you’ll force Rosenfield to retract her claim. Confirm it and you’ll have proven that “open honest discussion” is not what you want. Phillyist liked the production and, to read what Gogerty’s posts, much of the entirety of the city of brotherly love is right there with you. How nice. Now that you’ve got what you want, buck up and come clean.

And remember, nothing on earth endows you with the right to smack around a free press, to challenge the fundamental First Amendment rights of Rosenfield or the Inquirer or anyone else. You should be grateful that Rosenfield took time to wrestle — even if imperfectly, even if unfavorably — with the conundrum Gogerty’s piece put before her. Personally, I will take fecund over feckless any day.

If you don’t believe the American theater deserves more than obsequiousness and acquiescence in its critics, then no, I really do not think you are very nice at all.

Love, Leonard